LaBelle Winery now using grapes from its Amherst vineyard for wine production
By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON Union Leader Correspondent
Cesar Arboleda and Amy LaBelle pick the first harvest at LaBelle Winery in Amherst. (COURTESY)
Above, the vines at LaBelle Winery have been harvested for the first time to make two new wine varieties from grapes grown locally in Amherst. (COURTESY)
AMHERST — For the first time, LaBelle Winery is producing wine from its own homegrown grapes.
“We are actually thrilled to have been able to make wine from our first grapes grown at the vineyard,” said Amy LaBelle, owner and winemaker at the Amherst facilty. “Wine takes forever. This part of the dream had to wait for us.”
In 2012, LaBelle Winery opened its $4 million, 20,000-square-foot winery and event center along Route 101 in Amherst near the Bedford town line. At the time, 2-year-old plants were planted on a portion of the 11-acre farmland site.
The winery’s harvest in October of 2015 was used to create two new wine varieties — Amherst Vineyard Red and Amherst Vineyard White.
“Seeing it all come to fruition in a bottle of wine was very rewarding,” LaBelle said. “It is super special to be able to work with the grapes that we planted with our own hands.”
According to LaBelle, the 2016 growing season was good despite the drought conditions. The 2,001 vines growing in the vineyard are now stronger because they had to work harder to reach water, she said.
“The grapes were absolutely beautiful,” she said, explaining one vine produces about one bottle of wine.
LaBelle Winery will continue to bring in fruit from other farms throughout New England and the Finger Lakes region of New York to assist with its winemaking process, as the vines in Amherst are not enough to produce the number of bottles filled each year at the Amherst site.
The local winery currently produces more than 30 different wines, but LaBelle said the two newest varieties are the most special since they are made by hand and on site with grapes grown in Amherst.
Amherst Vineyard Red and Amherst Vineyard White have already received positive feedback, and the Amherst Red earned three prizes in the 2017 Best of New England Wine Competition last month. It was named Best Red in New England, Double Gold and Best in New Hampshire.
Both wines are made from a blend of the grape varieties grown at LaBelle Winery, and crafted from varietals including Noiret, Chancellor, Petite Pearl, Cayuga, Petite Amie and Seyval Blanc.
LaBelle Winery has acquired a 48-acre parcel across the street from its existing facility in Amherst to eventually construct an artisan village complete with a possible inn, restaurant, distillery and brewery.
The project, however, has hit a snag as Amherst resident Richard Fredette filed an appeal of a zoning decision to approve a variance that would permit the development.
His attorney argues in court records that the winery’s expansion would alter the character and quality of the town, maintaining the site is located within a zoning district that does not permit commercial development.
The lawsuit is still pending, LaBelle said, adding the business is trying to remain patient throughout the lengthy legal process.
While some possible remedies are being worked on, LaBelle said she couldn’t disclose any details.
“We are hoping for a positive outcome,” she said, adding LaBelle continues to be in “heavy planning mode” to make this new dream a reality.